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find them to harmonize, wherever we cast our eye, with the assertion of St. Paul under review. What is the declaration of the Lord Jesus? "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him."* How speaks he upon another occasion? "Without me ye can do nothing."+ What is the observation of the Apostle to the Ephesians? "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." From such delineations of the book of life there is no room for escape: and, however humbling to the proud and independent views of the carnal mind, they must force us to exclaim, in the honest and lowly spirit of Bishop Beveridge; "Truly if it hath pleased my glorious Maker to entrust me with any understanding of his holy Scriptures, this must needs be the purport and meaning of them."!
But again: If the Apostle's language thus lowers the pretensions of the creature, by ascribing all the glory to the Creator, does it not also speak with strong consolation to the desponding pilgrim to heaven ?—The believer, sinking under the power of temptation, and trembling at the future difficulties of his way, is ready to lie down in despair: but, coming to the Volume of life, and fixing his eye upon its gracious promises, he finds an almighty and merciful arm interposing for his rescue. There is a fulness of comfort in the phraseology of St. Paul, to which I have not yet directed your attention. "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure," as if he had said-This grace which renews and sanctifies the heart, and brings forth within it increasing fruits of holiness, it is his delight to communi
* John, vi. 44.
+ John, xv. 5.
See his Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles; Art. x.
Ephes. ii. 10.
cate; and upon every spirit that asks for its succors, they shall plentifully descend. Observe, then, my Christian friends, how seasonably the declarations of God's heavenly word come in to relieve your anxious doubts. In every conflict, his aid is nigh; in every period of your spiritual journey, he travels by your side; in all your apprehensions of failure, he whispers the animating assurance, "My grace is sufficient for thee for my strength is made perfect in weakness."* And in the same language of encouragement does the Apostle's declaration address itself to those, who are as yet destitute of that first great change, by which the soul becomes converted unto God. Those views which have been exhibited, of the absolute need of a divine agency for every holy thought and deed, have perhaps led some unrenewed spirit to the reflection; If such be the exclusive origin of Christian affections, vain is every personal effort; and, unless the blessed Almoner shall vouchsafe to me the gift, heaven's portals are barred against my entrance. Turn to the declaration of the inspired composer. The same Lord who is mighty in strength, is here revealed as also rich in love. He stands ready to enlighten, and sanctify, and save, all that ask him in sincerity for the boon; he has, times without number, displayed his mercy, in those convictions of the Spirit with which he has alarmed and invited you, in common with every inhabitant of earth; and the character of his dispensation is thus briefly, and emphatically described, "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."t
The second precept here delivered by the Apostle, relates to the cultivation of a contented and submissive temper, + Luke, xii. 32.
* II. Cor. xii. 9.
under the appointments of a gracious Providence." Do all things," says he, " without murmurings and disputings;" that is, While travelling onward through life, avoid that fretful disposition, which is ever complaining of heaven's arrangements; and which, in looking at the situation and privileges of others, is prone to indulge in envious repinings. This spirit of dissatisfaction with the allotments of God Almighty, is referred to by the same Apostle, in his First Epistle to the Corinthians; where he says, "Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer." Perhaps there is no more striking evidence, my brethren, of the wickedness of the human heart, than the habit, here described, of questioning the propriety and goodness of dispensations, proceeding from the Fountain of mercy. Such a temper was not uncommon during the primitive periods of the church, in relation to the variety of spiritual gifts; and proceeded to so disgraceful an extent, as to demand the particular and urgent remonstrances of St. Paul in his official capacity. It is precisely the same querulous and discontented mind, however, which distinguishes man in all ages of the world; and which is seen exhibiting itself, in some slight degree, even among the spiritual servants of God. To be thoroughly and meekly resigned, in whatever sphere the wise Disposer may see fit to place him, is one of the last lessons which the Christian disciple learns. He admits, and believes that his heart also feels, the excellence of all that is ordered by Him, who doeth right in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: but to apply this truth for his comfort, amidst the darker visitations of heaven; to be patient
*I. Cor. x. 10.
under poverty and privation; to see others on the heights of life, and himself in the vale, with cheerful acquiescence; here it is that he finds his weakness, and the triumphs of a sinful spirit over the clearest deductions of his reason. He goes forth into the world: he perceives the inequality of privileges, that separates men from men: and the spectacle is apt to provoke him into bitterness; peevish complaints; indignation, that, among the multitudes of God's creatures, he himself has not a better place, and higher marks of distinction. Such a tendency, though not, indeed, prevalent, is occasionally to be found, in the ranks of those whom grace has renewed; and it was for the benefit of these, that the sacred Apostle penned the admonition before us. If there be those, within this assembly, who stand in need of the caution, let them bear it in solemn remembrance. "Be content with such things as ye have."* "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”†
This admonition to a peaceful and submissive spirit, the Apostle proceeds to enforce by some powerful motives. These occupy the last two verses of the portion before us; and are highly interesting in their character.
The first inducement which he presents to the Philippians, is the consideration of the happy influence which, by such a course, they would exert upon the enemies of truth. Let us examine the terms in which this idea is conveyed. "That ye may be blameless ;" that is, without affording to wicked men any just ground for censure: "and harmless ;" in other words, not injuring any man by asperity of tongue, or envious expressions; and thus fulfilling the Saviour's injunction, to be
"wise as serpents, and harmless as doves:"* "the sons of God;" shewing yourselves, namely, by your mild, amiable, and acquiescing temper, to be indeed born of the Spirit, and not Christians in name merely: "without rebuke;" that is, by your consistent conversation, escaping reproach; "in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life." The Philippian converts were dwelling amidst a people, wandering from the straight road of truth, and ignorant of their best interests: and their situation was the same with that of believers in every age; whose lot is cast, wherever they may be thrown, amidst scenes of spiritual wickedness, and among those who know not the way of life. The peculiar blessing and glory of Christians, while thus living in a blind and unbelieving world, the Apostle describes by a very significant allusion. He compares them to the heavenly bodies: declaring, that, as those luminaries of the sky dispense their rays through the darkness of night, so they, called by divine Providence to a knowledge of the truth, are privileged to instruct, convince, and lead men to a reception of Christ, by their exhibition, in daily life, of the efficacy of that religion which they profess.-Behold in these words, then, my brethren, the constraining motive, by which you are invited to adorn the gospel of Jesus, in the midst of an adulterous and perverse generation. The unbelieving, the sceptical, the blasphemers of truth, perceive your good conversation: they see your actions corresponding with your principles: the cavils with which they would fain assail you, are removed: and, perhaps, by the perseverance and regularity of your deportment, some malignant spirits become persuaded that the servants of Christ are * Matt. x. 16.